Week 14: AAC Hoops Power Rankings

In this week’s AAC power ranks, Patrick looks at SMU’s predictable yet effective offense, the ugliness of the Cincinnati-Tulane game, and much more.

1. SMU (21-5, 12-2 AAC; LW- 1)

Last week: at Houston (W 75-69), vs. Connecticut (W 73-55)

What I found interesting when looking at the numbers is that this is predictable yet difficult to beat team. 60 percent of SMU’s points come via the two-pointer, and the Mustangs have hit that number in 10 of the 14 AAC games. When they don’t hit it, they are 3-1. The loss was the second Cincinnati game, in which they were forced into bad shots and missed 14 rim-area shots. When they shoot below 50 percent on twos, they are just 2-2. The two wins came against Tulane, a game in which SMU made 19 free throws, and at USF, in which SMU made 26 FTs. Bottom line: SMU makes no secret of its intention to pound it in the paint, and still no one can stop it.

This week: 2/19 vs. Temple

2. Temple (19-7, 10-3; LW- 3)

Last week: 2/14 vs. ECU (W 66-53)

The Owls are predictable like SMU, except they’re predictably not going to shoot two-pointers. Just 48.3 percent of their points come off twos (253rd), and in their three conference losses, that number sinks to 45 percent. Part of the reason those numbers are so low is because Temple shoots 42.7 percent on twos for the season. Oddly enough, against the three best defensive teams it faced this year (Kansas, SMU and Cincinnati), they shot 75, 52 and 57 percent on twos. So the best comes out against good teams, and the worst against not as good teams. That’s anything but predictable.

This week: 2/19 at SMU, 2/22 at Tulsa

3. Tulsa (17-7, 10-2; LW- 2)

Last week: at Connecticut (L 70-45)

No one can deny Tulsa’s success, but KenPom’s luck metric says the Golden Hurricane is the sixth-luckiest team in the nation. Its average margin of victory in its 10 AAC wins is 9.9 points, but this includes an overtime win over USF, a second-half comeback against Houston and a two-point win over ECU. Tulsa was able to pull out wins largely because all three of those teams aren’t very good. Now, in Tulsa’s seven losses, the margin of defeat is 15 points. Tulsa’s luck may work anymore, as four of its last six regular season opponents are the other top four teams in the conference.

This week: 2/18 vs. ECU, 2/22 vs. Temple

4. Cincinnati (17-8, 8-5 AAC; LW- 4)

Last week: vs. Tulane (L 50-49)

Tulane beat the Bearcats on a 30-foot heave at the buzzer, sending them to its third loss in five games. It’s the second bad loss in as many weeks, and as SMU showed last year, the selection committee doesn’t tolerate bad losses in the AAC. A win against archrival Xavier would add to a nonconference resume that includes wins over San Diego State and N.C. State, but it might not be enough if the bad losses continue.

This Week: 2/18 vs. Xavier, 2/21 at Houston

5. Connecticut (14-10, 7-5; LW- 5)

Last week: vs. Tulsa (W 70-45) at SMU (L 73-55)

Things were on the upswing here before the Huskies ran into one of the nation’s hottest teams. Despite the losses, UConn still feels like a team that will be a tough out in the conference tournament, especially if the opponent is a team they’ve already seen twice, because I think beating a team three times in one year is the hardest thing to do in college hoops.

This week: 2/19 at Memphis, 2/22 vs. Tulane

6. Memphis (15-10, 7-5; LW- 6)

Last week: at USF (W 75-48)

The Tigers are still good enough to mess someone’s postseason’s hopes or potential seeding up, and with games against Tulsa, Cincinnati and SMU left, the opportunity is there. Austin Nichols should be back in time for all three of those games. But games like Memphis’ loss to ECU on Feb. 10 don’t give much hope. That game was the fourth time Memphis has averaged 0.90 points per possession or less in AAC play. Even without Nichols and in a down year, 0.83 PPP against a poor defensive team like ECU is pretty terrible.

This week: 2/19 vs. Connecticut, 2/22 at UCF

7. Tulane (14-10, 5-7; LW- 7)

Last week: at Cincinnati (W 50-49)

The ugliest game of the conference season might belong to Cincinnati and Tulane. Let me explain: Jay Hook made a three to put Tulane ahead 12-7 with 7:43 to go in the first half. Tulane then went the next 4:44 without scoring, and Tre Drye’s two free throws with 2:59 left EXTENDED the Green Wave’s lead to 14-11. The Bearcats scored just four points in that span and six in the final 9:49 of the half to make the score 19-13 Tulane at the half. Yikes. And the second half wasn’t much better, especially for Cincinnati fans.

This week: 2/19 vs. UCF, 2/22 at Connecticut

8. East Carolina (11-14, 4-8; LW- 8)

Last week: at Temple (L 66-53)

Even with the loss, the Pirates are 3-2 in their last five games, and could continue the winning record with games against USF, Houston and UCF all remaining. However, the loss to Temple was typical ECU: horrid two-point shooting (34 percent, 42 percent of total points) leads to contested three-point attempts and low scoring output.

This week: 2/18 at Tulsa, 2/21 vs. USF

9. Central Florida (11-13, 4-9; LW- 9)

Last week: vs. USF (W 73-62), vs. Houston (W 56-54)

Last week I talked about how the Knights may have good overall offensive numbers, but those are really a result of smashing bad opponents. In both its wins last week, UCF scored over 1.0 PPP, but against the league’s 9th- and 10th-ranked defenses (in terms of defensive efficiency). The trend continues.

This week: 2/19 at Tulane, 2/22 vs. Memphis

10. South Florida (8-19, 2-12; LW- 11)

Last week: at UCF (L 73-62), vs. Memphis (L 75-48), vs. Houston (W 69-67)

If I told you the ugliest game of the season would be outlined in this article, I’m sure you would have guessed that game would be USF-Houston (which I’m sure you all were dying to know the outcome of). It actually turned out okay, with Wes VanBeck missing a three-point attempt on an open look at the buzzer. The Bulls snapped an 11-game losing streak with the win.

This week: 2/21 at ECU

11. Houston (9-16, 1-12; LW- 10)

Last week: at USF (L 69-67)

Here’s the question of the week: How did this team beat Murray State? (The Racers haven’t lost since November and are receiving AP Top 25 votes).

This week: 2/21 vs. Cincinnati

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